Somewhere between sleeping wild on a wind-blown hillside and camping amongst crowds on a busy campsite there’s a happy medium, a place where you can pitch in a little privacy, light a campfire and enjoy the stars.
As staycation demand grows, Almost Wild Camping author James Warner Smith picks out his favourite back-to-basics campsites in Britain where you can find your own space this summer and get that little bit closer to nature.
Best wild campsites in the UK
Wytch Wood, Somerset
There are just 15 pitches on this South Somerset farm, some in an open meadow but many secreted away in private spots – beside a stream, amongst lofty beech trees or lost beneath a flood of wild garlic and only available come summer. Campfires are allowed and each pitch comes with a good supply of logs and, though facilities are basic, there are ample composting loos dotted around and off-grid gas-powered showers.
Footpaths on the farm are being developed for campers – climb the hill at the western end for superb views and sunsets. coolcamping.com/campsites/uk/england/south-west-england/somerset/ilminster/10636-wytch-wood-camping
Eight miles from the nearest main road, this Highland campsite near the shore of Little Loch Broom offers all the remoteness of wild camping proper but with the added benefit of ablutions, a fridge and a cosy bothy in bad weather. Across the water the hunched shoulders of An Teallach dominates the mountain skyline and there are formidable hikes on 2,000-foot Beinn Ghobhlach behind the campsite too.
Walk the waters’ edge instead and you’ll discover Scoraig further down the shore, one of the remotest settlements in mainland Scotland, only accessible by boat or on foot. coolcamping.com/campsites/uk/scotland/highlands/ross-shire/1011-badrallach
Graig Wen, Snowdonia
There’s nothing too wild about Graig Wen in winter, other than it’s partially wooded setting at the foot of Cader Idris and the spectacular views across the Mawddach Estuary. Visit in summer, however, and the camping area expands onto a patchwork of riverside meadows below the main site, with spacious family pitches or hidden nooks on a high bluff.
Footpaths lead down to the Mawddach Trail, a popular cycle route following a former branch of the Great Western Railway – ride for three miles and you’ll find yourself by the beach in Barmouth. coolcamping.com/campsites/uk/wales/north-wales/gwynedd/barmouth/157-graig-wen
Wild Camping Cornwall, Cornwall
There are just three pitches at this tiny site on the Penwith Peninsula and facilities consist of a composting loo, a gas-powered shower and a firepit at each pitch (a bag of logs comes with every booking). Otherwise, there’s little else.
The stars make for excellent night lights – the nearest neighbours here are a nature reserve and an Iron Age hillfort cared for by English Heritage, so light pollution is almost non-existent. By car, meanwhile, there’s a beach within 10–15 minutes in almost every direction, including Sennen Cove, Lamorna Cove and Penberth. coolcamping.com/campsites/uk/england/south-west-england/cornwall/penzance/892-wild-camping-cornwall
Fire & Stars, Leicestershire
You can pitch your tent in this 50-acre wood, managed in partnership with the National Forest, but it’s popular for hammock camping too and, for the wildest experiences, youngsters have been known to build dens for the night. It’s all rather relaxed but you do need to come prepared – there’s no running water, so you’ll need to bring a pre-filled tank or bottles, and the only showers are in the pub over the road for an extra charge.
Twycross Zoo, the Battlefield Steam Railway and Ashby De La Zouch Castle are all within a five-mile drive. coolcamping.com/campsites/uk/england/east-midlands/leicestershire/market-bosworth/10083-fire-and-stars-woodland-camping
Almost Wild Camping
James Warner Smith, Cool Camping, £12.95
Features 50 exceptional off-grid style campsites, in some of Britain’s wildest locations
Includes extra chapters with practical information on wild camping access, legislation, tips and tricks, plus features on lighting campfires, wild swimming and travelling sustainably.